The New York Yankees open pursuit of their 28th World Series title Thursday when they begin the regular season at Yankee Stadium against the Detroit Tigers (1:05 p.m., YES). With Spring Training nearly completed, let's look at five things we have learned about the team in recent weeks.
1. Rafael Soriano is a diva. The Yankees' biggest off-season free-agent acquisition is a terrific pitcher, having saved 45 games a year ago for Tampa Bay, and should combine with Mariano Rivera to make the Yankees nearly unbeatable if they can get a lead after six or seven innings. Soriano may have accepted a step down to set-up man, but he certainly doesn't seem to consider himself just another guy in the bullpen. Soriano pretty much dictated his Spring Training schedule, including refusing to pitch against AL East teams. Reports are that he has rarely spoken to any of his new teammates, and that he is hardly ever in the clubhouse. No one will care how mysterious the guy is if he locks down the eighth inning. It would help, though, if he would blend into the team, at least a little bit.
2. The Yankees believe Jorge Posada is done as a catcher. After 16 seasons catching -- and doing it well -- for the Yankees, Posada has been moved to designated hitter. Posada, in fact, did not catch a single inning throughout Spring Training as the Yankees left no doubt they just don't see the soon-to-be 40-year-old as a viable option behind the plate any longer.
3. Manny Banuelos is the best of the Baby B's. The Yankees are excited about the futures of Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, the top three pitchers in their minor-league system. Banuelos, who just turned 20, is clearly the most polished despite being far younger than the other two. He pitched to a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings this Spring, striking out 14. If Banuelos dominates in the minors this season the Yankees will be tempted to bring him to the Bronx. A year in the minors would be good for him, though. Banuelos has only 15.1 innings at AA and has never pitched at AAA.
4. Oblique injuries are "in." The Yankees suffered four of them during Spring Training. Pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre suffered oblique injuries, outfielder Greg Golson had one and now starting center fielder Curtis Granderson has one. Golson got optioned to the minors, Mitre got traded and Granderson might open the season on the disabled list. Hey, gang, can we maybe alter the stretching routine or something? Anything. Four of those already is sort of ridiculous.
5. Yogi Berra is old. The Hall of Famer and one of the most popular Yankees ever, Berra is 85 years old and still loves being around the team. And the Yankees love having him around. The fact, however, that he fell once during Spring Training and wound up in the hospital, then fell a second time and was saved from harm by Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon is worrisome.